Florida Breaks A COVID Record, Belarusian Runner Seeks Asylum, MTV At 40: News You Need To Start Your Day

Published July 30, 2021 at 12:26 PM EDT
A protester at the Capitol Sunday night holds a sign that reads, "Housing is a human right."
Kevin Dietsch
Getty Images
Demonstrators gather during a protest against the expiration of the eviction moratorium outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

Good morning,

We hope everyone had a restful and restorative weekend. Here's what we're watching this morning:

🎧 Also on NPR's daily Up First podcast, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says a return to in-person learning is vital for students.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark, Nicole Hernandez, Casey Noenickx, Carol Ritchie and Rachel Treisman

NPR Newscast
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

A Belarusian Runner Missed Her Event. Now She's Seeking Asylum

Posted August 2, 2021 at 7:57 AM EDT
Belarus athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who claimed her team tried to force her to leave Japan following a row during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, walks with her luggage inside the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Sunday.
Yuki Iwamura
Belarus athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who claimed her team tried to force her to leave Japan following a row during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, walks with her luggage inside the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Sunday.

Belarusian runner Kristina Tsimanouskaya was absent from the 200-meter heat in Olympic Stadium on Monday.

Instead, Tsimanouskaya was at a Tokyo airport hotel under the protection of the Japanese authorities, after claiming that Belarus’s Olympic Committee had tried to forcibly send her home for criticizing its management of Belarusian athletes during the Games.

Her request for protection comes amid a yearlong crackdown against opponentsof Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko that has included the arrest and detention of dozens of Belarusian sports figures.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee said it was monitoring her case and would offer support.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic and Poland both offered Tsimanouskaya political asylum should she seek it.

Just In
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

U.S. Women's Soccer Loses To Canada

Posted August 2, 2021 at 7:07 AM EDT
A U.S. soccer player takes a knee after losing to Canada. Canadian team players seen in the background.
Francois Nel/Getty Images
Getty Images
U.S. forward Carli Lloyd reacts after a missed chance during the Tokyo Olympic Games women's semifinal soccer match between the U.S. and Canada on Monday.

The top-ranked U.S. women's soccer team lost its semifinal game to Canada 1-0 at the Tokyo Olympics, pushing it out of contention for a gold medal.

NPR's MerritKennedy and Russel Lewis have the details.


Millions Of Americans Are Newly At Risk Of Eviction, And Congress Is On Recess. What Now?

Posted August 2, 2021 at 7:50 AM EDT
A crowd gathers around the steps of the U.S. Capitol, where a woman in a yellow sweatshirt stands, speaking. The sky is dark but the scene is illuminated by the lights of the building and phones.
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rep. Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, speaks during a protest against the expiration of the eviction moratorium outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. She told Morning Edition why the issue is personal for her.

The federal freeze on evictions expired over the weekend. That leaves the more than 7 million Americans behind on their rent at risk of eviction, and during a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

So why now? NPR's Chris Arnold explains on Morning Edition that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had put the moratorium in place to prevent the spread of the virus, but landlords sued and the Supreme Court effectively blocked the agency from extending it beyond July.

Congress has the power to pass legislation to continue the moratorium — but not the votes. Lawmakers left for August recess without doing so.

Now House Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi are calling on the Biden administration to immediately extend the freeze through Oct. 18. The White House has said that President Biden wanted to keep it in place but was concerned about challenging the court.

Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri was one of several protesters and lawmakers who slept on the U.S. Capitol steps Friday night to protest the expiration. Bush says the issue is personal, telling Steve Inskeep that she herself has experienced being unhoused and living out of her car with two babies and her partner. Hear the conversation.

"I know what that minute-by-minute feeling is like and what happens to your mind, and just how traumatic that that can be on you and your children, your family. And I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I went through, especially because ... it's a policy choice. It's unconscionable, what's happening."
- Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri

"We have to address this in every single way we can," Bush says, and is calling on states and localities to implement moratoriums of their own in the meantime.

Some local governments are taking steps to delay evictions and direct more aid to landlords and renters. That's the case in DeKalb County, Ga., which we looked at last week.

Arnold has been following the situation there and reports today that officials are making two major changes to help people who have fallen behind on their rent. Read that story here.

Music 📺

Feeling Nostalgic? Celebrate MTV's Birthday By Revisiting Its First 100 Music Videos

Posted August 2, 2021 at 8:29 AM EDT
A TV on a white stand displays the MTV logo of an astronaut carrying a yellow "M"-shaped flag against a dark background.
Photo Illustration by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
MTV made its debut just after midnight on Aug. 1, 1981.

Iconic cable channel MTV — aka Music Television — first went on the air 40 years ago yesterday.

While today’s younger viewers may associate the network with, say, reality-show exploits on the Jersey and Floribama shores, it’s not an understatement to say that MTV revolutionized pop music and its impact on pop culture.

As Raina Douris, the host of WXPN’s World Cafe, put it: “Many of the first videos the station aired became hits; A new generation of music fans became acquainted with the freshman class of VJs or video jockeys, including Martha Quinn, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson and Mark Goodman. Together, they would go on to present some of the coolest, weirdest, cheesiest and worst music videos of the 1980s and beyond.”

The first music video MTV ever aired was The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star.”

Then what?

Check out this NPR Music playlist of the 100 first songs to play on MTV. ⤵️

Plus, click here to read how Beavis, Butt-Head and Daria disrupted cable.

  1. "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles
  2. "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar
  3. "She Won't Dance with Me" by Rod Stewart
  4. "You Better You Bet" by The Who
  5. "Little Suzi's on the Up" by Ph.D.
  6. "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Cliff Richard
  7. "Brass in Pocket" by The Pretenders
  8. "Time Heals" by Todd Rundgren
  9. "Take It on the Run" by REO Speedwagon
  10. "Rockin' the Paradise" by Styx

COVID-19 Cases Are Skyrocketing, And They May Peak Relatively Soon

Posted August 2, 2021 at 6:53 AM EDT
A person wearing a face mask pushes a shopping cart into the entrance of a store, where a big blue sign displays a red stop sign with a mask icon and the words "MASKS REQUIRED" in yellow.
Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images
People shop at a grocery store requiring masks in Los Angeles on July 23. Mask mandates are cropping up in places across the U.S. as the highly contagious delta variant pushes COVID-19 cases back up.

COVID-19 cases are up in every state, driven almost entirely by the more contagious delta variant. So just how panicked should we be?

"It kind of feels like we're all strapped back into our seats on the roller coaster again and gripping the sides of the car as it starts rocketing up, wondering just how scary it's going to get this time," NPR science editor and correspondent Rob Stein said on Morning Edition.

He spoke to hosts Steve Inskeep and A Martínez about what we know this morning ⤵️

Plus, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins explains how vaccines hold up against the delta variant and what America can do to curb the pandemic (listen here).

The state of the pandemic: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded more than 100,000 new cases in the U.S. on Friday, for the first time in nearly six months (Florida alone reported more than 21,000 cases on Saturday, the state's highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic). Hospitals are filling up again and deaths are mounting.

How states and businesses are responding: Some companies, like NPR, are postponing their employees' return to in-person work. Several (like Facebook, Google, Disney and Walmart) are requiring at least some employees get vaccinated, while federal workers and contractors have to disclose whether they are vaccinated and wear masks and get tested if they are not.

New mask mandates are cropping up in places like Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Nevada.

Do you need to wear a mask where you live? Check this map.

The silver lining: The resurgence in cases is roaring back so much sooner and more ferociously that it may peak relatively earlier, perhaps within a month or two.

Plus, we're finally starting to see vaccinations pick up: They're climbing in at least a dozen states, especially in hard-hit places with low vaccinate rates.

How's the vaccination campaign going in your state? Find out.

Vaccinated people can still catch and spread the virus, but vaccines are really good at keeping people from getting very sick and dying — and they're the only way out of the pandemic.

And if you've already gotten your vaccine(s) and wondering about whether you'll need another (as is the case in Israel, where officials say they'll start giving third shots to people over 60):

The U.S. is probably headed in the direction of boosters, especially for people with weaker immune systems, but most experts say it is still too soon.

Facebook and Google are among NPR's financial supporters.


Some States Are Working To Prevent COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Posted August 2, 2021 at 9:03 AM EDT
A folding table with bottles of disinfectant spray, yellow bins and hand sanitizer sits in an empty hallway.
Liz Sanders/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson promoted COVID-19 vaccinations at a community town hall at Arkansas State University Mountain Home (ASUMH) in Mountain Home, Arkansas, on July 16. Arkansas is one of several states that has passed laws prohibiting vaccine requirements.

As COVID-19 cases surge, the federal government and some private employers are requiring their workers to show proof of vaccination. Plus certain cities and localities are once again requiring masks indoors.

Some states, however, are not just ordering more precautions, but already moving to stop vaccination mandates in the future.

Hemi Tewarson of the National Academy for State Health Policy is tracking state legislatures for such bills, and spoke toMorning Edition's A Martínez about what she's seeing. Notably:

  • Nine states have enacted 11 laws with prohibitions on vaccine mandates (Arizona and Arkansas have each enacted two).
  • They weren't all introduced or enacted at this stage of the pandemic — in fact, some were introduced back in February and March, and the most recent took effect in late June.
  • Some of these laws are tied only to vaccinations that have emergency use authorization, so if the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines get full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the prohibition will no longer apply.
  • The laws don't prevent officials from encouraging vaccinations, only from requiring it. So governors in these states have been pushing for people to roll up their sleeves, just not ordering it.
  • The vast majority apply only to state and local governments, meaning private schools and employers in those states can still pass vaccine mandates.

Companies like Google, Netflix, Morgan Stanley and The Washington Post have recently announced vaccine requirements for their employees. Other businesses are using incentives like time off, lotteries and reduction in health care insurance.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi has this story on how private companies are navigating these decisions.

Just In
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

Tomorrow's Olympic Beam Final Will Feature 2 U.S. Athletes: Suni Lee And Simone Biles

Posted August 2, 2021 at 7:24 AM EDT
two gymnastic athletes hug during Olympic competition.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Getty Images AsiaPac
Sunisa Lee of Team United States is embraced by teammate Simone Biles during the Women's Team Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

You'll have one more chance to see Simone Biles compete in Tokyo: Suni Lee and Biles will compete in the balance beam final against six other athletes from around the world.

Lee won gold Thursday in the women's all-around competition. Biles, who withdrew from the event, shared support for Lee on Instagramafter her all-around win: "CONGRATS PRINCESS ... So so so beyond proud of you!!!!"

The beam event will take place Tuesday at 4:50 a.m. ET.

Here's what USA Gymnastics had to say.

A Slice Of History

You Can Now (Possibly) Get Your Hands On A Piece Of Princess Diana’s Wedding Cake

Posted August 2, 2021 at 9:14 AM EDT
Princess Diana, wearing a white wedding gown and veil, stands next to Prince Charles, between two white columns, on a balcony covered with a red and gold draping.
Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Toronto Star
Diana Princess of Wales and Prince Charles on their wedding day in London in 1981.

Looking to spend money on a single piece of 40-year-old cake from someone else's wedding?

Well, what if that wedding was the royal nuptials of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer?

You're in luck! Asliver of history is up for grabs courtesy of Dominic Winter Auctioneers.

The large slice of cake icing and marzipan base is from one of the whopping 23 official cakes made for the iconic July 1981 wedding.

And it certainly looks the part, with a "sugared onlay" of the royal coat of arms in gold, red, blue and silver on top of a white icing base. There's also a silver horseshoe and decorative borders along the top and bottom.

The slice likely came from the side of a cake or the top of a single-tier cake, according to the U.K. auction house, and was probably sent to Clarence House for the consumption of the queen mother's staff.

It ended up in the possession of Moyra Smith, an employee of the queen mother, and was originally sold to the auction house in 2008 on behalf of Smith's family. It's been sitting in a plastic-wrapped cake tin ever since.

"It appears to be in exactly the same good condition as when originally sold, but we advise against eating it," the website reads.

Unfortunately, the royal letter and bottle of commemorative beer that accompanied the lot are not included. But it does come with printed programs for the St. Paul's Cathedral ceremony, as well as a program for a Royal Wedding Breakfast at Buckingham Palace.

The sugary artifact is expected to fetch as much as £300, or more than $400, at the auction on Aug. 11.


'This Isn't A Red Or Blue Issue, This Is About Students': Education Secretary On A Safe Return To School

Posted August 2, 2021 at 7:16 AM EDT
A man wearing a gray suit and navy face mask gestures with his hands while sitting at a desk, with several colorful bookshelves behind him.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks at an event at the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven on March 26, 2021 in New Haven, Connecticut.

The U.S. Department of Education just released a roadmap this morning for the return to in-person learning.

It directs districts to invest in students' social-emotional wellbeing as well as their academic achievements, and outlines pandemic mitigation strategies like the CDC's recent universal masking guidance.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke with NPR's A Martínez about the importance of getting students back in classrooms, how to do it safely and what keeps him up at night as the start of the school year approaches.

Read more from Clare Lombardo of NPR's Education team. Some excerpts of the interview are below ⤵️

On what he would tell parents who do not feel safe sending their students back into school as the delta variant surges:

"Talk to the educators. Talk to the school principal. Learn what the school is doing to keep your children safe and have confidence that if they're following the mitigation strategies that we know work, your children will be okay. I worry about the emotional wellbeing of students when they're not in school. So I think parents have to weigh that out as well."

On what the Biden administration can do about states like Texas, Iowa and South Carolina that have passed laws banning districts from requiring masks in schools:

"We are having conversations daily with governors, with elected officials to make sure that we're communicating the importance of following the rules, following what works. And we're making progress. But in the places where they're the most resistant, that's where we're seeing the most spread of COVID-19. So unfortunately what might end up happening is we're going to have school closures where they don't need to close."

"And unfortunately this year, unlike last year, there's a lot more partisan interpretation of what's best for students. So that's going to change my message [to state officials], to make sure that this isn't a red or blue issue, this is about students."

On the most important thing school districts can do with their federal relief funding:

"The most impactful strategies that I've seen in my visits to different states are, number one, ensuring that the building is safe … We’re also seeing an investment in additional support staff to help our students and our educators come back post-pandemic — and post traumatic experience, right? So more guidance counselors, more school social workers, we're seeing better class sizes because there's additional teachers available. We're seeing districts invest in staff that are going to go out and knock on doors to ensure that families have what they need to safely return to school."

On what he's most worried about this back-to-school season:

"Complacency. We need to do better. We need to make sure that the school systems that our students return to are better than the schools before the pandemic. Before the pandemic we had white opportunity gaps in our country. We had the cost of college preventing people from thinking about college, because they didn't want to be buried in debt. We must do better. And we have an opportunity here to hit the reset button, the only thing that's holding us back is complacency."

🎧 Listen to that conversation here.


'Ted Lasso' Actress Hannah Waddingham On How The Hit Show Captured Our Hearts

Posted August 2, 2021 at 9:47 AM EDT
Actress Hannah Waddingham attends Apple's "Ted Lasso" season two premiere event red carpet in West Hollywood on July 15
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
Actress Hannah Waddingham attends Apple's "Ted Lasso" season two premiere event red carpet in West Hollywood on July 15.

Ted Lasso is a surprise hit show that's become a bright spot in dark times. The series has been nominated for 20 Emmys and the second season’s premiere had the biggest show premiere audience yet for Apple TV+.

Starring Jason Sudeikis as Lasso, the show follows a U.S. football coach who becomes a U.K. soccer coach despite knowing nothing about the sport. The team’s owner, Rebecca Welton, hires Lasso to sabotage the team and its former owner, her ex-husband.

Welton is played by British actress Hannah Waddingham, who comes from a musical theater background. Waddingham joined NPR’sIt’s Been A Minute With Sam Sanders to talk about her role and the show’s earnestness.

“I wanted to find that line between a woman who likes to be glamorous, a woman who perhaps is overtly glamorous in Rebecca's case, because she's actually desperately trying to stop anybody coming in,” Waddingham said.

Waddingham is joined on the episode by her co-star Jeremy Swift, who plays Leslie Higgins, to play “Who Said That.” 🎧Listen to the full episode, which also features a discussion of vaccine disinformation on social media.

International Dispatch

Myanmar’s Military Leader Declares Himself Prime Minister And Promises Elections In 2023

Posted August 2, 2021 at 8:16 AM EDT
Min Aung Hlaing showen here in a candid portrait.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool AP
Commander-in-chief of Myanmar's armed forces Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, seen here in June, delivers a speech at a conference on international security in Moscow.

BANGKOK (AP) — Six months after seizing power from the elected government, Myanmar's military leader on Sunday declared himself prime minister and said he would lead the country under the extended state of emergency until elections are held in about two years.

"We must create conditions to hold a free and fair multiparty general election," Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said during a recorded televised address. "We have to make preparations. I pledge to hold the multiparty general election without fail."

He said the state of emergency will achieve its objectives by August 2023. In a separate announcement, the military government named itself "the caretaker government" and Min Aung Hlaing the prime minister.

The state of emergency was declared when troops moved against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, an action the generals said was permitted under the military-authored 2008 constitution. The military claimed her landslide victory in last year's national elections was achieved through massive voter fraud but offered no credible evidence.

The military government officially annulled the election results last Tuesday and appointed a new election commission to take charge of the polls.

The military takeover was met with massive public protests that has resulted in a lethal crackdown by security forces, who routinely fire live ammunition into crowds. As of Sunday, 939 people have been killed by the authorities since Feb. 1, according to a tally kept by the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Casualties are also rising among the military and police as armed resistance grows in both urban and rural areas.

Moves by The Association of Southeast Asian Nations to broker a dialogue between the military government and its opponents have stalled after an agreement at an April summit in Jakarta to appoint a special envoy for Myanmar.

Min Aung Hlaing said that among the three nominees, Thailand's former Deputy Foreign Minister Virasakdi Futrakul was selected as the envoy.

"But for various reasons, new proposals were released and we could not keep moving onwards. I would like to say that Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including the dialogue with the ASEAN special envoy in Myanmar," he said.
ASEAN foreign ministers were expected to discuss Myanmar in virtual meetings this week hosted by Brunei, the current chair of the 10-nation bloc.
Myanmar is also struggling with its worst COVID-19 outbreak that has overwhelmed its already crippled health care system. Limitations on oxygen sales have led to widespread allegations that the military is directing supplies to government supporters and military-run hospitals.

At the same time, medical workers have been targeted by authorities after spearheading a civil disobedience movement that urged professionals and civil servants not to cooperate with the government.

Min Aung Hlaing blamed the public's mistrust in the military's efforts to control the outbreak on "fake news and misinformation via social networks," and accused those behind it of using COVID-19 "as a tool of bioterrorism."

Health Care

What Missouri’s Medicaid Expansion Means For Individuals, Hospitals And Politics

Posted August 2, 2021 at 9:28 AM EDT

An additional 275,000 low-income people in Missouri are now eligible for publicly-funded health care after more than a decade of advocacy and a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

That makes Missouri the 38th state to expand Medicaid — thanks to voter support for a state constitutional amendment and despite opposition from Republican lawmakers.

Before the expansion, a single mother of one child would have to earn less than $3,000 a year to qualify for Medicaid. Soon that number will be closer to $24,000. Eligible residents can start applying in the coming weeks.

Jason Rosenbaum of St. Louis Public Radio explains how the change is poised to reshape both Missouri’s healthcare system and public policy for years to come.

Read the full story or listen here.

Moment Of Joy

Jumping Double Dutch At Age 40 And Beyond

Posted August 2, 2021 at 9:58 AM EDT

Five years ago, Pamela Robinson was feeling the pressures of adulthood. To manage she turned to a happier time: Childhood summers in the 1970s spent jumping Double Dutch.

"In 2016, I was going through a lot of issues in my personal life, and I needed to find a happy place and I remembered how freeing it is to jump Double Dutch and how it takes us back to a time before stress, before husbands, kids, bills took over."
— Pamela Robinson, founder of the 40+ Double Dutch Club

Robinson started jumping rope again and invited others to join her by founding the 40+ Double Dutch Club. The club now has chapters across the U.S. and abroad where women 40 and up come together to practice fitness, build friendships and reconnect with a beloved childhood pastime.

🎧 Listen to more on the club here.

Before You Go
Tokyo Olympics 🥇

10 Striking Olympic Storylines To Watch This Week

Posted August 2, 2021 at 10:06 AM EDT
A skateboarder during Olympic competition.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Getty Images AsiaPac
Steven Pineiro of Team Puerto Rico in action during a training session at the skateboarding park at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.

As swimmers head home after an eventful first week, focus shifts to the track and field competition and the finals for soccer, volleyball and basketball. Simone Biles will take the mat one last time to compete in the beam final, and a few more first-time Olympic competitions debut.

With so much happening in Tokyo, NPR's team on the ground has gathered 10 can't-miss storylines to watch for in the week ahead.